4 Grand Valley residents to get free joint replacements

Four Grand Valley residents in need of joint replacements will receive artificial hips such as those pictured in this X-ray free of charge today and Friday from St. Mary’s Hospital, which is acting in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates and a team of specialists, nurses and therapists, all of whom donated their services through the nonprofit organization Operation Walk USA.



Four Grand Valley residents in dire need of joint replacements but who lack the insurance to pay for them will receive the life-changing surgeries today and Friday thanks to volunteers.

St. Mary’s Hospital, in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Orthopaedic Associates, will provide free hip and knee replacements to the four.

The surgeries will be performed under the auspices of Operation Walk USA, an independent medical humanitarian organization that provides free hip or knee replacement surgeries to patients in the nation, St. Mary’s Director of Orthopedics Michael Herrick said.

The services, valued at $250,000 or more, will be performed by Dr. Jeffrey M. Nakano, Dr. Steven J. Heil and a team of “dedicated” volunteer professionals, Herrick said.

“The average total knee surgery across the country is between $35,000 and $65,000,” Herrick said.

“It’s a substantial life-changing event for the people who go through it and it’s a substantial commitment by the hospital ... surgeons ... radiologists ... anesthesiologists ... medical supply companies ... orthopedic vendors, not to mention the therapists and the nurses who are at the core of everything that happens,” he said. “Everyone has donated everything.”

The patients were chosen through Marillac Clinic, clinic spokeswoman Sarah Robinson said.

Two males and two females between the ages of 50 and 60 will receive three DuPuy artificial hips and one Stryker artificial knee.

Nakano will perform the hip surgeries, while Heil will perform the knee replacement, Robinson said.

“Our mission through this effort is to improve the quality of life for these individuals so they can experience more active and productive lives,” Nakano said. “Alleviating the disabling arthritis will help them return to employment and enjoyment of life.”

“The impact that a replacement knee or hip has on a patient’s life is significant,” Heil said. “It’s our mission to help our patients regain their ability to live and move without pain.

The four have been with Marillac from one to six years, Robinson said.

The surgeons reviewed patient files referred to them by Marillac to determine who appeared to be in the greatest need.

Patients were referred based how engaged they were in their own treatment at Marillac and the support system they have in place to help them through the surgery and follow-up physical therapy.

Nakano, who has participated in Operation Walk for many years approached Herrick in 2012 about St. Mary’s becoming involved in the program.

“It fits all of our missions to serve the community, so I thought it was a great idea and our administration thought it was a great idea, so we put it into play,” Herrick said.

Three patients received free joint replacements in 2012, he said.

Arthritic disease is the most common cause of disability in the nation, affecting about 48 million Americans, or more than 21 percent of the adult population, Herrick said.

The debilitating pain of end-stage hip or knee degenerative disease often makes working, or completing even the simplest of daily tasks, excruciatingly painful or impossible, he said.

Hip and knee replacement surgeries are the most cost-effective and successful of all orthopedic procedures, eliminating pain and allowing patients to resume active, productive lives, Herrick said.

While more than one million hip and knee replacements are performed in the nation each year, countless men and women continue to live with severe arthritic pain and immobility because they cannot afford joint replacement surgery, he said.

“Participating in this event is one of the many ways that we at St. Mary’s live our mission and nurture the health of those in our community,” said Sister Barbara Aldrich, vice president of mission services. “It is a gift to our organization, our staff and our physicians to be able to make such a difference in the lives of people who would not otherwise have had this chance to get the care they need.”

Operation Walk USA consists of 120 volunteer orthopaedic surgeons and 70 participating hospitals in 32 states.

This year, the program was expanded from one day to the entire first week of December to allow more hospitals, surgeons and patients to participate.

Device manufacturers DePuy and Stryker donated the hip and knee implants for Operation Walk 2013.

Ortech Data Inc., an electronic medical record management company, will securely transfer Operation Walk USA 2013 data to the American Joint Replacement Registry, a national center for data collection and research on total hip and knee replacements.


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